Yes, I’m aware that the 2017 NFL Draft just concluded, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun and take a look ahead to next year’s draft.
Before we begin, let’s go over a few housekeeping items. First, the draft order is taken from the latest Super Bowl odds, so if you are upset at where your team is slotted, please direct those frustrations to Las Vegas. Secondly, there is a LOT that will change between now and next spring so use this as a starting point to get a feel for the top prospects available for 2018 and where NFL team needs might be.
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Yes, Cleveland took DeShone Kizer in the second round of the 2017 draft, but Darnold is not the type of talent that can be passed up. His 453 yard, 5 touchdown performance in the Rose Bowl against Penn State was a glimpse of his immense upside. He has an incredible arm and natural feel for the position.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Allen flirted with the idea of declaring for the 2017 draft but stayed in school to take his game to the next level. He makes wow throws on the field and is able to extend plays with his feet as a runner and passer. If he can develop consistency with his decision-making and accuracy, the 49ers would be a good landing spot to become the quarterback of the future.
3. New York Jets: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Jets have a glaring need a quarterback, but Barkley is the type of talent who should lead to a third consecutive year of seeing a running back selected in the top 5. A do-everything back, Barkley is a physical and explosive runner that can become the focal point of an NFL offense.
4. Los Angeles Rams: Derwin James, S, Florida State
James is a big, long and athletic playmaking presence on the backend. Safety was a need for the Rams entering the 2017 draft, and that need remains despite using a third-round selection on John Johnson. James is a potential blue chip talent.
5. Chicago Bears: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
Fresh off utilizing the second overall selection in 2017 on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, it would behoove the Bears to fortify the offensive line in front of him. Williams would also become the first Longhorns first-round pick since 2015.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
The additions of running back Leonard Fournette and offensive tackle Cam Robinson prove that Jacksonville wants to become a power running team. The Jaguars still need more talent on the offensive line. Enter Orlando Brown, who is massive and powerful.
7. Buffalo Bills: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Wilkins is a big, athletic defensive tackle who lives in the opponents’ backfield. Kyle Williams contemplated retirement this offseason, so Buffalo would be wise to think about the future of the defensive line by pairing Wilkins with Marcel Dareus, giving the Bills an exciting duo.
8. Los Angeles Chargers: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
The Chargers need to start thinking about life after Phillip Rivers, and Jackson has stylistic similarities to Tyrod Taylor, who Anthony Lynn coached in Buffalo. Jackson would also create a splash as the Chargers move to Los Angeles and create excitement.
9. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
The Lions made a substantial investment in the offensive line but lack the firepower at running back to maximize the unit. Guice is an exciting talent who dominated when Leonard Fournette was out with injuries in 2016. Now the feature back with innovative offensive coordinator Matt Canada, Guice is in for a Heisman-caliber season.
10. Philadelphia Eagles: Arden Key, Edge Defender, LSU
After using its first-round selection on Derek Barnett, the Eagles selection of Key would provide the Eagles with an incredible pass rushing duo of edge rushers. Key is a long, athletic rusher with an exciting skill set that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz could use in a wide-nine role with Barnett as a base end.
11. Washington Redskins: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
The Redskins made investments on the defensive side of the ball with its 2017 draft class, but they still lack an athletic second level defender with range from an off-ball perspective. Jefferson is a high urgency player who is all over the field.
12. Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Fitzpatrick is a playmaking presence in the secondary that knows how to disrupt at the catch point with exceptional ball skills. His versatility is appealing and would be the final piece in a three-year overhaul of the Dolphins secondary.
13. Cincinnati Bengals: Cameron Smith, LB, USC
The Bengals are in need of a three-down playmaker on the second level, and Smith is a player who can fill the role. He also fits the prototype of Bengals linebackers in terms of size and physicality. Cincinnati helps solify its defense with this Pac-12 defender.
14. Baltimore Ravens: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
The Ravens emphasized defensive improvements with its 2017 draft class and brought in a slew of talented defenders. With that said, the receivers around Joe Flacco are underwhelming, and Sutton profiles as a potential No. 1 receiver in the NFL.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State
The Buccaneers need to add some youth at the cornerback position with aging veteran Brent Grimes entering his mid-30s. Pairing McFadden with Vernon Hargreaves would give Tampa Bay a duo of corners with outstanding ball skills who could make the lives of opposing receivers hard for the next decade.
16. Tennessee Titans: Clelin Ferrell, Edge Defender, Clemson
The Titans need to improve the defensive playmaking talent on the roster, and Ferrell is an explosive, long, dynamic edge player who has the juice to become and impact defender. Tennessee could use a young pass rusher, and Ferrell would give the Titans defense some juice off the edge.
17. New Orleans Saints: Sam Hubbard, Edge Defender, Ohio State
The Saints need to develop its arsenal of edge rushers, and Hubbard is a high-motor pass rusher who knows how to use his hands, power and burst to beat blocks. The defense will continue to struggle until they can consistently pressure the quarterback.
18. Arizona Cardinals: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Carson Palmer is nearing the end of his career, so it’s time for the Cardinals to find his replacement. Rudolph is a big-armed passer who excels at working the football down the field. He is a great fit for coach Bruce Arians’ offense.
19. Indianapolis Colts: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Frank Gore is nearing the end of his career, and Chubb actually compares quite favorably to Gore as a runner. Chubb is a physical runner and compliments his power with good burst. Chubb should regain his complete 2015 form in his second season back from injury.
20. Minnesota Vikings: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Vikings have been working to improve its offensive line, a unit that has severely struggled over the last two seasons. After adding Pat Elflein and Danny Isidora in the 2017 draft, McGlinchey would complete the overhaul and give the Vikings a competent offensive line for the first time in a while.
21. Carolina Panthers: Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
The Panthers haven’t used a first-round selection on an offensive tackle since Jordan Gross in 2003. Hyatt will be in his third season as Clemson’s starting left tackle and has the upside to become Cam Newton’s blindside protector.
22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City): Bradley Chubb, Edge Defender North Carolina State
The depth of the Bills pass rushers is lacking, and coach Sean McDermott has made it clear that he wants to affect quarterbacks on defense. Enter Bradley Chubb, who had 21 tackles for loss and 10 sacks last season. Chubb should be an impact defender off the edge for Buffalo.
23. New York Giants: Azeem Victor, LB, Washington
The Giants defense is desperately lacking playmakers on the second level. Victor has been the best linebacker on highly productive Husky defensive units. The Giants already have a great defense, Victor would solidfy the linebacking corps and make New York’s defense even scarier.
24. Denver Broncos: Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
The Broncos rarely use high selection on running backs, but Scarbrough is a talent who would help solidify the rushing attack as Paxton Lynch develops. Scarbrough is a big, powerful runner who can become the workhorse of the offense and allow things to open up in the passing game.
25. Cleveland Browns (from Houston): Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
The Browns roster is improving but still needs help at cornerback. Alexander has the coverage and ball skills to become one of the top breakout defenders in the 2017 season and give Cleveland another talented piece to the defense at a position of need.
26. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
The Steelers offense has everything except a true playmaker at tight end. Gesicki is big-bodied target who dominates at the catch point and has excellent hands. With the size to win as a blocker, Gesicki is a balanced player with receiving skills that Pittsburgh is missing at tight end.
27. Oakland Raiders: Harold Landry, Edge Defender, Boston College
The Raiders have made strides to improve its defense, but they are still a few playmakers away from having a top-flight unit. Landry racked up 22 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks last season and knows how to wreak havoc off the edge. The Raiders get an enticing pass rush to complement with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.
28. Atlanta Falcons: Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State
Nnadi is a physical, powerful, stout defender that is difficult to move and knows how to beat blocks. He could become Dontari Poe’s replacement and long-term replacement after Poe signed only a one-year deal.
29. Seattle Seahawks: Trey Adams, OT, Washington
The Seahawks have added pieces to the offensive line, but they are struggling to find the right mix of players in front of Russell Wilson. Adams is a talent who can lock down the left tackle position and help keep Wilson upright on a more consistent basis.
30. Green Bay Packers: Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
Ragnow is one of my early favorites in the 2018 class. He is a nasty blocker who finishes blocks at a high level. He’s experienced and should be able to come in and start right away at guard or center in the NFL. Green Bay has a need at interior offensive line.
31. Dallas Cowboys: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Edge Defender, Oklahoma
Even after using its first-round selection on Taco Charlton, the Cowboys can still use help on the edge. Okoronkwo is an explosive rusher who would complement the size and power of Charlton from the other side. Okoronkwo gives Dallas some juice off the edge.
32. New England Patriots: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
The Patriots have several decisions to make regarding the wide receiver position with so many contracts expiring at the position. New England can look to the draft and add Kirk, who is an explosive talent that can create yards for himself. He could pair with Brandin Cooks to provide two electric options for Tom Brady to feed the ball to.